Plotting short-term, last-minute trips can seem unattainable for some budgets, but I swear to you, it can be done.
Plenty of bloggers focus on the budget aspect, but this post will be about the tools I personally use to save money without adding stress.
If you haven’t signed up for reward miles on at least three airlines you use frequently, you’re basically throwing away free vacations! Southwest Airlines is one of my favorite rewards programs, and I’ve used miles for roundtrip from Florida to Colorado and Florida to Hawaii. Alaska Airlines is another generous rewards program. Programs that are popular internationally are American Airlines, British Airways, and Delta. Why not sign up for each airline when you purchase a ticket?
No idea where to begin? Meet The Points Guy. This site has all the rewards points resources you could ever need. Complete beginners can begin here and sign up for every major loyalty program. Perfect site for finding info about free flights!
Picking A Destination
Unless it’s for an academic paper, Pinterest is the first resource I use for pretty much everything. Planning a trip usually involves searches like “colorful” +”beach” under the travel category. Once I find a destination, Don’t forget to actually click on the pins to get the most info! This is also the perfect way to find new travel blogs (remember those experts I mentioned?) to follow.
Visit Expert Pages
Y’all know those blogs where you know exactly what the blogger knows well? Let them lead the way! A few of my favorite expert bloggers are:
Heart My Backpack Sylvia has an excellent collection of information on what she now claims as her home country, Norway.
Alex In Wanderland Alex has multiple intensive posts on the land of smiles (and elephants) Thailand.
Travel Alphas Maddie and Mauricio seem to get all around the world, but I never skip visiting their site before planning anything Europe-related.
Before you leave…Male sure to get some form of travel insurance. It can be quite cheap if you already have health insurance. Kayak, Booking.com and other booking companies often offer the option of insurance which includes everything from health issues to emergency evacuation.
Everytime I visit a country, I like to see what my day trip options are. Ideally, visiting more than one country on a trip. For example, I’ll be spending 9 days in Belize, and am planning on trying to stop by Guatemala. This is how my love and I got from Italy to Croatia, one of our favorite destinations. Instead of flying, we took a train from Naples to Bari. Then we hopped on an overnight ferry and sailed away. The ferry is massive, and some people brought cars! We lucked out and got a room to ourselves and a shared bathroom, which I saw not one soul during our overnight trip. Highly recommend bringing snacks if you’re a picky eater, I vaguely remember eating a burger and french fries. It was one of the most unique travel experiences I’ve had thus far.
Unlike 3rd party sites, Google Flights gives you real-time ticket prices. It never hurts to clear your cookies, but google flights has yet to price-gouged me. Not only does Google Flights help you out financially, other useful options include ‘exploring’ multiple destinations, ‘discovering’ destinations, and receiving alerts for pre-planned flights.
Have you ever received the only no-view window seat in the plane? Or chosen emergency aisle only to discover the seats do not recline ? I have, and it sucks. Flights longer than 2 hours must be checked on Seatguru. Don’t be afraid! A few considerations are proximity to restrooms and galleys, exit rows, and leg room size. For example, on long flights, I love to chat with the flight attendants in the galley. Always have a hilarious story or two.
I absolutely adore a nice hotel, but nothing beats an amazing apartment at city center. Europe has a particular abundance of flats for rent, many with balconies and private outdoor space. If you are absolutely not going to clean on your trip, you might want to consider a private room in a hostel or boutique hotel.
HostelWorld’s filter features are quite brilliant. My favorite one being the “Private Room” options. Particularly in Europe and parts of South America, private rooms in hostels are a much cheaper (and often nicer) option. If you have any issues like wanting A/C or a specific neighborhood, you can figure it all out before you book on HostelWorld.
If nothing sticks out to me, I’ll venture over to Kayak to scope out the best hotels. Don’t forget to clear your history/cookies if you do more than one or two searches. One of my favorite features of Kayak is the map view. If I’m traveling to a new city, I’ll do a little neighborhood research to see which one has late night dining, pharmacy, public transport, and any other aspect I find necessary to happiness. Then, I visit Kayak to see if any accommodation is near my goal neighborhood.
This website is interesting because it connects you with locals in designated cities to have adventures. You select where you plan on going, and find an itinerary. A few interesting ones are a 3-hour graffiti tour in San Francisco and visiting a Paris flea market. Personally think it’s amazing because it supports local economies at the most basic level.
Is the perfect website for any stage in your travel planning. Simply put in your tentative dates and location, and you have a list of all the upcoming music shows. Type A personality? Look up any potential venues on Instagram and judge away.
Is a surprisingly helpful site when planning trips in the USA! Unfortunately, the site seems to only feature North America. Luckily, North America is HUGE and contains plenty of interesting stops. The site has excellent quirky stops and city guides. We’re talking everything from Seattle grunge to “ghost-tours” quirky. My favorite? The Michigan Fall Leaves guide. So pretty! You can also choose a beginning and final destination and select points of interest, like shown below.